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Littlewoods, the retail chain, has appointed Eversheds as its lead property adviser after a competitive tender process aimed at streamlining legal outsourcing.
Five regional firms were invited to tender for the work. It is understood that Addleshaw Booth & Co, Cuff Roberts, DLA and Maclay Murray & Spens will cease to do Littlewoods property work as a result of the reorganisation.
Eversheds has not previously provided property advice to the retailer. The new role was won by Eversheds' Manchester office (which covers Liverpool), where Littlewoods is based. Property partner Stephen Sorrell is leading the team. He says: "What is pleasing about this instruction from our perspective is that we were the only firm [bidding] that hadn't had a pre-existing relationship with Littlewoods.
"We focused on trying to meet the needs of the business and majored on our partnering concept. We knew they wanted us to take away the burden in legal services terms from Littlewoods and provide an integrated service. I think that proved to be a unique selling point against the other tenderers. We were very keen to win this."
The tendering process was initiated early this year.
Neil Ogilvie, Littlewoods' legal and property director, says: "In recent years, Littlewoods has handled a small proportion of its property-related legal work in-house. The majority of property work, however, has been outsourced to a variety of different legal firms. In reassessing our strategy in terms of relationships with external firms, Littlewoods was keen to establish a key appointment with a single supplier for property services. This will enable us both to enjoy economies of scale and to build a partnership with substantial benefits for both parties, which the previous structure did not allow for."
Littlewoods has a real estate portfolio that includes more than 250 retail outlets, 70 distribution depots and other properties with a combined value in excess of £350m.
Ogilvie is also reviewing how Littlewoods services its employment law requirements and expects to make a decision shortly.
The Littlewoods win comes as a consortium advised by Eversheds was announced as the preferred developer for the North Manchester Business Park. The consortium comprises Ask Property Development and Akeler. It also follows Eversheds' appointment to the new English Partnerships panel (The Lawyer, 5 March).